Watery cargo burns, traffic crawls during semitrailer fire on I-15

Semitrailer involved in a vehicle fire on northbound I-15 at milepost 28, Kanarravile, Utah, July 3, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

KANARRAVILLE – Northbound lanes on Interstate 15 were at a crawl for more than three hours Friday morning after a semitrailer hauling bottled water from Las Vegas to Cedar City caught fire at about milepost 48.

Semitrailer involved in a vehicle fire on northbound I-15 at milepost 28, Kanarravile, Utah, July 3, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Semitrailer involved in a vehicle fire on northbound I-15 at milepost 28, Kanarraville, Utah, July 3, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

The Cedar City and Kanarraville fire departments were the first to respond to the scene after the initial report of the incident came into dispatch at 9:03 a.m. Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Utah Highway Patrol and Utah Department of Transportation all followed suit to help control and direct the mounting traffic that was backing up due to the fire.

Both northbound lanes were closed until about 10 a.m. When the fire was finally contained, UHP allowed one lane to open, letting the bumper-to-bumper holiday traffic slowly trickle through.


Read more: Traffic Advisory: Northbound I-15 near Kanarraville backed up due to vehicle fire


It took about 45 minutes to put the fire out, Cedar City Fire Marshal Mike Shurtz said. The plastic bottles that held the water are much more combustible than people realize, he said.

Alex Caballero, the driver of Semitrailer involved in a vehicle fire on northbound I-15 at milepost 48, discusses the details of the accident with Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Nathan Clark, Kanarravile, Utah, July 3, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Alex Caballero, the driver of a semitrailer involved in a vehicle fire on northbound I-15 at milepost 48, discusses the details of the accident with Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Nathan Clark, Kanarraville, Utah, July 3, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

The fire is believed to have started as the result of a tire blowout, Shurtz said, which is also more common than one might think.

“I was driving 65 mph,” Love Freightways Inc. driver Alex Caballero said. “Everything was perfect, and then I feel a ‘pfffft,’ and I moved over to the shoulder.”

By the time Caballero got out of the rig and went to investigate, he said, the flames were already beginning to engulf the back of the trailer he was pulling.

Right away, he said, he and another truck driver, who pulled over to help, began separating the rig from the trailer so the fire wouldn’t damage the rig itself.

The tire that burst was changed just a little over a week ago at a travel stop somewhere in Utah, Caballero said, although he said he wasn’t sure of the exact location because another driver was driving the truck at that time.

The flat tire occurred just short of Caballero’s Cedar City destination. He said he was about to get off I-15 at exit 57 to make his delivery and head back home to his pregnant wife and children. Caballero had been driving since 5:30 a.m. PDT.

Semitrailer involved in a vehicle fire on northbound I-15 at milepost 48, Kanarravile, Utah, July 3, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Semitrailer involved in a vehicle fire on northbound I-15 at milepost 48, Kanarraville, Utah, July 3, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

Though Shurtz agreed with Caballero that the flat tire was most likely the cause of the fire, an investigation will be conducted before an official determination is made, UHP Trooper Nathan Clark said.

As this report is published, no citations have been issued in connection with the fire, but if findings prove Caballero was somehow at fault and the flat tire was not the direct cause of the fire, one may be issued in the future, Clark said.

The incident was cleared by 11:50 a.m., according to a previous traffic advisory report.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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